A richly sourced and meticulous—albeit Nixon-centric—case for why January 1973 matters.

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JANUARY 1973

WATERGATE, ROE V. WADE, VIETNAM, AND THE MONTH THAT CHANGED AMERICA FOREVER

What was so special about January 1973? Robenalt (The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War, 2009, etc.) makes the bold claim that this month signaled a turning point in the history of American political life.

The author focuses on the convergence of three major events: the first Watergate trial, which led to the unraveling of the Nixon Administration; the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, intended to end the war in Vietnam; and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions to protect a woman’s right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. His persuasive if somewhat self-evident argument, mostly confined to the book’s introduction and epilogue, is that one vision of America, based on Cold War hubris abroad and the welfare state at home, died in the first month of 1973. In its place arose the “Nixon counterrevolution,” giving new shape to conservatism as a political force and poisoning the body politic with new strains of mean-spiritedness and (after Roe v. Wade) religious mania. For the bulk of the book, however, Robenalt keeps his argument subdued and offers a straightforward account of the month’s events, as though he were presenting evidence in a case. He makes ample use of the Nixon tapes, diaries, and other primary sources, but the results can be overly detailed, even tediously quotidian. Things get interesting, though, when Nixon takes the stage, playing the central role. Fresh off his re-election, Nixon was by turns erratic, devious, repellent, sympathetic, lonesome, and drunk. But he is always fascinating in Robenalt’s unvarnished portrait of a flawed leader grappling with momentous events and heading, ultimately, toward ruin. This immersive microhistory offers macro conclusions about American politics.

A richly sourced and meticulous—albeit Nixon-centric—case for why January 1973 matters.

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61374-965-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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